An Iranian air defense commander was sentenced on Sunday to 13 years in prison for downing a Ukraine International Airlines flight over Tehran in 2020, with families of the victims rejecting the ruling as a "sham verdict."
On January 8, 2020, 176 people were killed after an IRGC Tor M1 surface-to-air missile system shot down Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 over Tehran, just hours after the IRGC fired ballistic missiles at a US base in Iraq in retaliation against the US assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.
In total, 20 hearings were held on the case, during which a total of 117 plaintiffs registered complaints, according to the Mizan news agency, affiliated with Iran's judiciary.
According to the report, the commander of the Tor M1 system thought that the aircraft was a cruise missile and, without obtaining the necessary permission and contrary to instructions, he fired two missiles at the plane.
The court found that the commander shot down the passenger plane due to "ignorance of the subject and a mistaken idea of the discovered target, and a belief that the target was hostile and approaching."
The commander was also ordered to pay compensation to the parents of victims who demanded it and additional punishments are being considered for the commander as well, according to Mizan.
At least nine other individuals received prison sentences of between one to three years, including the then-commander of the air defense of the IRGC Air Force. Additional punishments are being considered for these individuals as well.
The report noted that the decision in the case is preliminary and that the parties involved can file appeals within the next 20 days.
The Iranian government has in the past promised to pay each of the families of the victims $150,000 in compensation.
Families of the victims reject Iranian court's ruling
The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims rejected the Iranian court's decision on Sunday, calling it a "sham ruling."
"40 months after the horrific downing of Flight PS752 by IRGC missiles, the Islamic Republic’s military court released its ruling, issuing prison sentences to a few low-ranking officers. The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims has never recognized the Islamic Regime’s court as a legitimate tribunal and will never do. With its lack of impartiality and independence, the rulings of this court are accordingly meaningless and unacceptable," said the association.
The association added that the commanders and main perpetrators of the downing of the plane were not prosecuted and that the identities of the low-ranking officers who were prosecuted were completely obscured, accusing the court of issuing "a sham ruling to end this show in keeping with their predetermined scenario without conducting any full, impartial investigation."
The association stressed that the four other affected countries (seemingly Ukraine, Canada, the UK and Sweden) "are not absolved of their responsibility to seek justice for their citizens" and demanded that the countries file a complaint to the International Court of Justice and support a complaint filed by the association to the International Criminal Court.
The association additionally called for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to be designated as a terrorist entity and for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to open a criminal case and investigate the downing of the flight.
"We will not tire in the process of seeking truth and justice for Flight PS752. Countless beautiful lives were lost, the truth remained disguised, and justice was not served. In a state where innocent youth are sentenced to death in summary judgments for wanting freedom, administering justice for the intentional and horrific murder of the victims of this flight ensues in a farce. We shall continue the fight for truth and justice, and we will never forget, nor shall we ever forgive."